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How To Be A Heroine: Or What I've Learned From Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis

I feel as if I could write a book subtitled "What I've Learned From Reading Too Much" except all my lessons would be culled from Greek mythology, the Babysitters' Club, the lives of British queens, crime mysteries, suspense thrillers and celebrity and entertainment gossip.  I first ran across How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis in an ad in BookPage.  The title sounded intriguing and once I looked it up on Amazon, I was in for reading it.  It reminds me of the literacy autobiography writing assignment that I had in one of my English composition classes in college--except this is the literacy autobiography on steroids.

The premise of this book is that the author revisits the seminal texts that she read in her youth by examining the lessons and impressions of the novels that she had upon her first readings when she was younger.  Ellis has then re-read the novels as an adult specifically for the writing of her own book to see if the novels hold up to her original impressions and readings.  Each chapter is built around a theme and follows her life chronologically--starting with the novels and fairy tales that she read as a child and following through the novels and poetry she read as a teen and then a college student and so on.  In these early chapters Ellis' original reading of the novels is often through the lens of her childhood and the Iraqi Jewish cultural heritage of her community and upbringing.  More than once Ellis's identification with a particular heroine, character or story hinges on the otherness or outsider status of that character, which is often how Ellis felt growing up the daughter of Iraqi Jewish immigrants in London.

As the book goes on, more and more Ellis tries to use the lessons of these heroines as a map to the happiness and peace she seeks for her own life.  At first she is convinced that this happiness is dependent on finding Love (with a capital 'L') with The One.  In each chapter she tries on different heroines' lives, ever searching for the perfect fit and never quite finding it nor the answers for which she searches.  As her journey goes on, she comes to several realizations, the best of which is that she must be the heroine of her own story of which she alone is the writer.

If you are someone who reads too much who enjoys reading about other people reading too much (as I do sometimes), then this book is for you.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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